Virginia Gov Asks Interior to Hold Off on Oil, Gas Lease Sale

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Feb. 25, 2009

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine this week asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to hold off on the federal government's planned offshore oil and gas lease sale that includes acreage off his state's coast, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Salazar has said previously that he would review the previous administration's five-year lease sale plan, which included opening up major portions of the Outer Continental Shelf closed for decades to development, and extended the public comment period on the plan by half a year.

"Our policies do not support exploration for oil or production of gas or oil, which would be allowed under Lease Sale 220," Kaine said in a letter dated Feb. 19 and viewed by Dow Jones Newswires.

"I believe that no sale should be conducted in the Atlantic until the process that you have outlined in the five-year program is complete," he wrote.

The five-year plan, in which firms such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. are anxious to bid, also includes two other lease sales off the Atlantic coast.

An Interior Department spokesman wasn't immediately aware of the letter.

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard criticized the request and Salazar's decision to delay implementation of the five-year plan.

"We cannot afford to delay. Our nation must deal now with its critical energy challenges," he said in a statement.

"Every day we delay ... is another day that federal, state and local governments go without the enormous revenues oil and natural gas exploration generates. And it is another day that we sit around watching our energy security erode," he added.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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